Name, yes! Physical description ... not so much.
As I go about my life, I rarely think of my physical description and I warrant neither do most of you. I know I'm so many inches tall and weigh this many pounds, that I have dark hair and blue eyes, but I don't really think about any of that as I live my life. I might think about a coworker as really tall for a woman, as having extraordinarily beautiful eyes or really luxurious hair, but I don't think they are so many inches tall, about this weight, with curly black hair and green eyes. And if I meet them on a regular basis, their extraordinary traits become part of who they are, not a description to give unless someone else asks me to describe them.
Providing a physical description within the first paragraphs of introducing a character is a standard convention in American novels that I have discovered missing in European novels ... and I don't miss it. At some point I create a picture in my head of the character regardless if the writer provides that little paragraph of description or not.
It's made me think a lot about perspective in my writing. Why would Ryanna (my principle female character in The Willow Branch) describe herself physically to herself? Her friends might notice she's tall or beautiful, but she would think of herself as relatively ordinary. After all, she spend all of her time with herself. In one of my works-in-progress, the main character Peter is an exceptionally handsome man, but he's also a broken individual who is trying to overcome a lot of well-deserved self-hate. It would be uncharacteristic for him to look in a mirror and think of himself as handsome. When women give him an admiring glance, he thinks "Do they hate me for my past?" not "I'm all that." Similarly, while a woman might find him exceptionally attractive, his heterosexual male friend probably wouldn't. I know this because I have asked my husband to rate male actors in movies on handsomeness scales and discovered that his definition of masculine attractiveness is very different from mine. He tends to rate other men about how he would rate a car or a horse -- strong-looking is attractive, maybe if they have really bright eyes he'd notice, but a kissable mouth -- shudder.
Because I often write from more than one character perspective, I might introduce a character from their own point of view sans physical description and then "turn the camera around" from the POV of another character, but these are the things to think about when you do that. A lover might admire the cut of a fine pair of slacks on a man, but his mother probably shouldn't ... unless she's a tailor.
I am not saying to never describe your characters' physical attributes. I am saying to avoid the traditional romance novelist info dump because it's overdone and often illogical. Think about what you're doing when you're writing and see if perhaps you can spend more time developing actual characters with personality rather than just physical characteristics.
Lela Markham is a Breakwater Harbor Books author of The Willow Branch and Life As We Knew It. To learn more about her, visit her website aurorawatcherak.wordpress.com.